Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Warriors

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ West Kelowna Warriors
When: February 12, 7:00 pm
Where: Royal Lepage Place, West Kelowna

Another massive two points are on the line for the Smokies, who could move to within two points of fourth-place Salmon Arm with a victory on the road tonight in West Kelowna. After suffering an embarrassing loss on home ice Friday against Alberni Valley, no doubt Trail comes into today's contest motivated to right the ship and inch closer to a playoff berth that, despite the loss, remains very much up for grabs.

The team will again have the services of goaltender Adam Todd tonight. The 18 year-old dressed three times, but did not play for the WHL's Everett Silvertips over the long weekend. Four of Trail's last five wins have come with Todd between the pipes, most recently the 5-3 triumph over the SilverBacks a week ago.

After a slow start away from home, the Smokies have found their groove on away ice. Trail has won 6 of 9 away from Cominco Arena after collecting only one win in their first ten road fixtures. Royal Lepage Place has also brought recent success, with the Smoke Eaters' last visit resulting in a 4-3 overtime victory on December 14th.

And despite some games that have been far from close, the season series between Trail and West Kelowna is even at three wins each. In Trail's three victories, the Smokies have outscored the Warriors 10-6, while in the three defeats, the Smokies have been outscored 21-3.

Trail will need to be much more defensively responsible than they were in Friday's setback to the Bulldogs in order to earn a fourth victory against West Kelowna tonight. Too many times Alberni Valley was allowed unbridled access to the front of the net (especially in the third period) and Trail's defense corps needs to buy in, and be meaner.

The Smokies' power-play has also been a topic of concern, but to me the biggest thing missing is a lack of simplicity. The Smoke Eaters have proven time and time again this season their ability to win pucks and cycle behind the goalline, but seemed unable to gain the offensive zone with enough effectiveness to create those "down-low" chances. It's imperative for this club to find some early success with the man-advantage to gain some confidence like we saw in Langley two weekends ago, especially on the heels of two special-teams performances that generated few results.

Last Meeting: West Kelowna got off the hop early and cruised to a 6-1 victory January 12th at Cominco Arena. The home team has won four of the six meetings between the two sides this season.

Our Opponent: The Warriors have been on fire since the holiday break, and are finally showing the form expected of them when the 2012-13 season began. West Kelowna is 8-1-1 in its last ten games, and are fresh off helping the Smoke Eaters with victories over Salmon Arm and Vernon at the weekend. Marcus Basara (58 points) and Seb Lloyd (55 points) are the top guns within the Warriors' forward corps (Basara alone has five goals in six games against Trail this season), while captain Max French sits third in team scoring with 39 points despite only making 28 appearances in Warrior silks. West Kelowna will be without forward Shawn Hochhausen and defenseman Braxton Bilous due to suspension, while blueliner Brett Zarazun is eligible to return to the lineup after sitting out two games.

In the Press Box: Bryce Knapp is the lone scratch for Trail, while Hochhausen and Bilous will sit out for the Warriors.

Broadcast Info: Watch tonight's game on FAST Hockey pay-per-view, or listen live at Smokies Ustream. Pregame coverage begins at 6:50 with the play-by-play set for 7:00.

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